by Michael Holland     

Overwhelmed in a meeting with a large project?  Is an employee struggling with how to get through all the work in front of them?

Use this simplistic project planning tool to help get a handle on the project or work load.  Let’s use an example: your boss comes to you, asking that you give him a plan to increase employee morale given the recent downsizing at your company.

  • Find a blank piece of paper.
  • Holding the paper sideways in front of you (landscape mode) fold the paper in half.
  • Next, fold the paper in half again.
  • Unfold the paper and you’ll notice you have 4 quadrants.
  • Divide the project at hand into 4 big buckets of work. So for our sample project, we might have the buckets: Employee Morale Issues, Manager Morale Issues, Idea Generation, and Implementing Ideas.
  • Within each quadrant begin to develop 3 to 4 smaller buckets of work.  So for the Employee Morale Issues quadrant/bucket we might have:
    • Send online survey to employees
    • Gather small groups of employees to seek information
    • Gather small groups of managers to seek perception on employee morale
    • Get materials on what other companies are experiencing with current morale
    • Finish all quadrants.  Note that neatness doesn’t count so use all the space in the quadrant, writing sideways and diagonally as thoughts come to mind.
    • Is the work and sub-work in each quadrant still too big?  Divide it again, using the back of each quadrant, or take a quadrant to a new piece of paper.

Dividing the project into manageable pieces creates the opportunity to conquer the project at hand, even if the conquering is manipulating your mind to believe the project can be managed.

Are you more visual in your approach?  Gather multi-colored post-it notes and a clean wall.  Write your buckets of work on the post-its and place them on the wall.  Use similar colors for similar themes.  Post-it notes allow you to move the items around the wall as your mind rotates through how best to conquer the work ahead.   Maybe magic triangles provide a great visual.  Or perhaps placing the post-it notes in a logical sequence of implementation.  Have some fun with your approach.

Have a special way you divide and conquer projects?  Send it to us and we’ll share your methods or tools in a future Leadership Learning Moment.